'Lonely, isolated and overwhelmed' - becoming a new mum in a pandemic

Mum with brown hair holding smiling baby girl in pink outfit

Claire Young and her baby daughter Willow Young who was born in 2020 - Credit: Claire Young

Mums-to-be and new mums have been feeling the pressure during the global Covid pandemic, with many admitting they have felt isolated and alone on their new journey.

At the start of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, mums from Suffolk have spoken about coping with the 'baby blues' to more serious conditions including postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety.

These challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with many mums-to-be also struggling with their mental health before the birth of their child.

Smiling mum with toddler and baby girl

Claire Young pictured with her daughter Willow who was born in July 2020, and her son Heath - Credit: Claire Young

'I'm lucky someone listened to me'

Claire Young, who lives in Fornham St Martin near Bury St Edmunds, suffered with anxiety following the birth of her daughter Willow in July 2020.

Mrs Young, 34, started working from home in March 2020, whilst looking after her then two-year-old son Heath.

Despite being relieved restrictions were eased slightly in the summer, her husband still wasn't allowed with her for the majority of her labour. 

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Mrs Young said:  Looking back what kind of upsets me about it is that my friends were having lunch together and my husband couldn't be with me when I was in labour.

"I do think being able to have your partner there for your entire labour is a big thing, especially if it is the first time you are doing it.

"I don't think the impact that it had on mums was measured, in comparison to what other people could do outside in the 'real world'."

Boy wearing hat with mum in sunglasses holding baby girl on beach

Claire Young from Fornham St Martin asked her health visitor for support with her anxiety, following the birth of her daughter - Credit: Claire Young

When Willow was around six weeks old, Mrs Young called her health visiting team after her husband told her he was worried about her. 

Through the perinatal support team she was offered Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EDMR) on Zoom, to help with her anxiety. 

"I don't think I had postnatal depression, it was very much anxiety because of everything that was going on," added Mrs Young.

"The EDMR therapy was all based around anxiety and stress levels, which I think the circumstances had enhanced massively. I'm just lucky someone listened to me and helped me out." 

Like many mums Mrs Young said she has found the last year and a bit "incredibly lonely".

She said: "There's been no baby classes and groups, there's been no popping round your friend's house for a cup of tea when you have had a long night.

"I was over the moon when they said you could have a support bubble, that's been a real lifesaver."

She added: "I'm grateful that I had already had a baby because God knows what would have happened if she'd have been my first."

Mum with brown hair holding newborn baby girl

Natasha Mann and her daughter Jessica who was born at Ipswich Hospital in March 2021 - Credit: NATASHA MANN

'I'm proud of myself for how I have dealt with everything'

Natasha Mann, 29, knows exactly how it feels to be a first time mum in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Miss Mann, who lives in Ipswich, said despite her positive outlook, being pregnant during numerous lockdowns did have a negative impact on her mental health.

"Not knowing what was going on with restrictions, whether my partner could be with me, having to go to scans myself, all made me stressed and really down," said Miss Mann.

"I never thought with my first pregnancy I would have to do things like go to our baby scan by myself.

"I always worried something would happen and my partner wouldn't be there with me. Thankfully everything was fine the whole way through, but it still didn't change how I felt." 

Cute little baby cuddling a bunny rabbit

Jessica Burrows was born during the March lockdown in 2021 - Credit: Natasha Mann

Following the safe arrival of her daughter Jessica, just a few days before Mother's Day this year, Miss Mann said at times she has felt sad that her baby is missing out on seeing family and meeting her friends. 

She added: "I felt lonely at times as my partner returned to work after a week Monday to Friday was a struggle. 

"It was all new to me and I was learning every single day, I'm proud of myself for how I have dealt with everything."

Miss Mann, said that midwives and health visitors have made her feel better by telling her she is doing 'an amazing job'." 

She added: "My partner has been incredible and takes time with our baby so I can have some time for myself.

"My friends have also been great, they all know about my mental health and are always there for me anyway.

"But since I have become a mum, they have looked out for me, offered me any support I may need and messaged me daily to see if I'm OK.

"I have also been treated to 'care packages' to make sure I have time for myself to relax and pamper myself as looking after myself is very important too.

"Reading comments on social media from new mummies, who have gone through what I have makes me realise I'm not alone and and that we are all in it together and there for each other if need be." 

Mum with brown hair and floral top cuddling a newborn baby

Natasha has thanked her partner, family and friends for the support they have given her since the birth of little Jessica in March - Credit: Natasha Mann

'Many mums are grieving for the loss of the ‘normal’ maternity leave'

Ruth Sharpshott, Perinatal Mental Health Project Assistant for Suffolk Libraries, has been supporting new mums who have suffered with a feeling of loneliness throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Mrs Sharpshott said: "Having a baby is a huge adjustment and it is very common for mums and dads to struggle with their mental health. 

"This can be for all kinds of reasons; many people go into a pregnancy having already experienced a miscarriage, baby loss or birth trauma, and are understandably very anxious.

"Others may have a pre-existing mental health condition or are affected by postpartum psychosis or postnatal depression that begins after birth.

"Sadly, the difficulties of the last year have made things even harder.

"Mums tell us that they are lonely, isolated and overwhelmed and many are grieving for the loss of the ‘normal’ maternity leave and early parenting experience that they were expecting.

"Thankfully, help is out there and in partnership with Suffolk Mind, we continue to offer virtual groups, support, signposting and counselling to those who are struggling." 

Any mums or dads that need support can visit the Suffolk Libraries website or email here.

Many mums feel overwhelmed

The "additional challenges" parents have faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic has been recognised by Suffolk Mind, which now runs a ' Mums Matter' course to support perinatal mums. 

Corrina Hanley, Mums Matter Coordinator at Suffolk Mind said: “We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought many additional challenges and a decline in mental wellbeing for many; one of the groups which has been affected significantly is pregnant women and new mums.

"They unfortunately have not had the usual opportunities of being able to meet with other mums, share experiences and talk about how they are feeling at a time when feelings of isolation and low mood are already very common. 

"The added impact of not being able to see your family and heightened feelings of anxiety as a result of the pandemic, have left many mums feeling overwhelmed.

“At Suffolk Mind we felt that we needed to be able to offer some much-needed support to pregnant women and new mums and that’s why we launched our Mums Matter course.

“Mums Matter is a six-week course that has been developed for perinatal mums who are experiencing mental health challenges, such as worrying thoughts, anxiety and postnatal depression." 

For more details about the Mums Matter course, visit the Suffolk Mind website. 

The Ipswich Star and East Anglian Daily Times have recently launched a new Mumlife Suffolk Facebook group to support parents, and keep them up-to-date with what is happening in Suffolk.

You can join the group here. 

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